Live bands rock the Queen’s Head

Cambridge Queen's HeadAn on-campus space rolls out weekly concert series featuring student bands to boost undergraduate presence.

By Ian Askew ‘19

Queens Head It’s a Thursday night, and a crowd of first-years are dancing, smiling and sipping water out of plastic cups in the middle of the Cambridge Queen’s Head. A live band plays a soulful Bob Marley cover. Grad students look on from the bar, nodding to the beat and sipping beer. For Harvard, this is the what a music scene on the rise looks like.

The Queen’s Head, a student-run restaurant and venue situated below Annenberg dining hall, has been a popular hangout for graduate students for a while because it's rare to find an on-campus establishment serving alcohol and cheap bar fare.

This year, the team at the Queen’s Head unrolled a series of new events including live music every Thursday, weekly trivia and a Saturday DJ. These events cater to undergraduates in an effort to establish the pub as more of a community center on campus. “Ultimately, it's our goal to provide a fun, safe, inclusive social space on campus,” said Molly Nolan ‘19, a sound technician and part of the marketing team at the pub. “While a large proportion of the pub-goers are graduate students, there has most definitely been an increase in the number of undergraduates in the space.”

Nolan spoke to the difficulty faced by student bands on campus. “The arts scene is alive and well at Harvard,” she said, “but contemporary bands in particular typically find less performance opportunity on campus than some of our other arts sectors, and in that sense it can be difficult for them to establish themselves. The C.Q.H. exists as a solution for that problem.”

The venue has provided performance opportunities for numerous student bands already, starting with a kick-off concert featuring The Intrinsics. The band playing during my visit was Margarine, formed by Alasdair MacKenzie ‘19 in high school and made up of members who now attend various colleges in the Boston area. This was already Margarine's second performance on campus this year.

Crowd member Mitch Polonsky, a first-year at the college, told me that he has been to every concert at the Queen’s Head since Opening Days. "I went to The Intrinsics when it was a big deal on the first night, but not everyone knew that it was a thing every week,” he said. Polonsky didn’t find out until later that live music would be a weekly event. I asked Polonsky if he thought he would ever make it down to the Queen’s Head if not for the concert series. "Definitely not,” he responded, “I haven’t been to the Queen’s Head when a band wasn't playing."

The establishment of the Queen’s Head as a weekly music venue comes with a greater shift in the Boston live music scene. While long-standing Boston venues such as T.T. the Bear’s and Johnny D’s are closing their doors, independant and DIY music spaces are popping up. Harvard’s campus is riding this tide of new music spaces, with student organizations having already hosted numerous open mics in the first couple months of classes.

In addition, Renegade Magazine will soon be hosting its first Tiny Dorm Concert, a take on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. Leading this shift is the weekly concert at the Queen’s Head, drawing large crowds into the restaurant and creating buzz around student bands who may have gone unnoticed in previous years. The number of spaces for student musicians to perform is beginning to match the abundance of musical talent that has long existed on Harvard's campus.